Kensuke's Kingdom

Kensuke's Kingdom

4.5 16
by Michael Morpurgo, Derek Jacobi

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Washed up on an island in the Pacific with his dog Stella, Michael struggles to survive on his own. He can't find food. He can't find water. But just when things are at their worst, Michael realizes that he and Stella are not alone. His fellow castaway, Kensuke, has lived on the island since the bombing of his native Nagasaki. Kensuke keeps his distance at first, but… See more details below


Washed up on an island in the Pacific with his dog Stella, Michael struggles to survive on his own. He can't find food. He can't find water. But just when things are at their worst, Michael realizes that he and Stella are not alone. His fellow castaway, Kensuke, has lived on the island since the bombing of his native Nagasaki. Kensuke keeps his distance at first, but slowly, he lets the boy into his world. The two teach and learn from each other until, inevitably, they must talk about escape.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Whitbread winner Morpurgo (Waiting for Anya) tries his hand at high-seas action in this tale of a 12-year-old who washes up on a tiny island in the Pacific in 1988. When the brickworks that employs Mike's parents closes, Mike's father comes up with a novel idea: he invests the family's life savings in a sailboat and hires someone to train the three of them to operate the boat. Before long Mike and his parents, and his faithful dog, Stella, are off on a voyage around the globe. But one night, while alone on deck, Mike falls overboard. After hours in the water and losing consciousness (he dreams someone with strong arms has hauled him to safety), Mike comes to on the shore of an apparently deserted island. Readers hoping for a survival story on the order of Hatchet or Island of the Blue Dolphins instead will find a highly romanticized tale in which a saddened but wise Japanese army doctor, shipwrecked near the end of WWII and unwilling to return home, not only rescues Mike but teaches him to fish, cook and paint ("As I watched [Kensuke painting] I became so engrossed that the failing light of evening always came too soon for me"). The languid descriptions and the clusters of coincidences create the ambience of fantasy; this story reads like a pleasantly extended daydream. Ages 8-12. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
During a round-the-world trip on his family's boat, 12-year-old Michael and his dog are swept overboard and later wash up on a remote island. They are not alone: a Japanese doctor has been marooned there since the end of World War II. Despite initial mistrust, the English boy and the Asian man become friends and learn from each other. Michael is brave, but he desperately misses his mum and dad and doubts he will ever see civilization again. Kensuke has had enough of war to know that he never again wants to be among his fellows. Although the story at times strains credulity, it has plenty to satisfy both the heart and the mind. Call it a cerebral survival tale. 2003, Scholastic, Ages 10 up.
—Donna Freedman
Set in 1987, this brief novel opens with eleven-year-old Michael departing England on a round-the-world yacht cruise with his parents and faithful sheepdog, Stella. Their adventure of a lifetime proceeds on course until disaster strikes in the Indian Ocean, when Stella is washed overboard and Michael leaps into the sea to save the animal. Struggling and near death, he is kept afloat by a souvenir soccer ball. Dreaming of angelic arms lifting him, Michael regains consciousness on a beach. Stella also survives, and together they desperately search the island for food and water. When nourishing supplies mysteriously appear, Michael knows that he is not the only human inhabitant of the island. Their benefactor is Kensuke, a Japanese survivor of World War II who has existed on the island for forty years. Originally from Nagasaki, the former soldier believes that his wife and son perished in the nuclear attack. He provides Michael with shelter, and as they overcome their language barrier, they begin a father-son relationship. Hoping for rescue, they pass time gathering food, protecting orangutans, and playing soccer. When a ship locates the castaways, Kensuke, still believing his family is dead, refuses to leave and states that the island is his home. Teens will scoff at the miracles that pop up, enabling Michael, Kensuke, and Stella not just to survive but to thrive on the island. The adult-youth friendship story line might attract lower middle school multicultural interest, but juvenile plotting and only brief flashes of excitement hamper any adventure potential. VOYA Codes: 2Q 2P M (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; For the YA with a special interest in thesubject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2003 (orig. 1999), Scholastic, 176p,
— Rollie Welch
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-This poignant adventure story begins in England in 1988 and ends halfway around the globe in a place that will change the 11-year-old protagonist forever. After losing his job, Michael's father surprises the family by purchasing a yacht in which they will sail around the world. In the first weeks at sea, Michael, his parents, and his dog, Stella, zigzag from England to Australia and across the Coral Sea, where Michael's reverie comes to a frightening end. In the middle of the night, he and Stella are swept overboard in a fierce storm, and he later awakens on an island beach. The island is a hostile jungle full of howling gibbons, voracious mosquitoes, and brutal heat, all of which challenge his ability to survive. Yet when he finds fresh water and food mysteriously laid out for him each morning, he realizes that he is not alone. He soon comes face-to-face with Kensuke, an old Japanese soldier who cautiously protects Michael in spite of the boy's dogged determination to build a bonfire that will signal potential rescuers, defying Kensuke's wish that the outside world never learn of his existence on the island. For nearly a year, the man and boy help each other, moving from an uneasy d tente to a deep friendship. What might have been just a gritty tale of survival evolves into a gentle parable about trust, compassion, love, and hope. This well-crafted story has all the thrills and intrigues of Gary Paulsen's Hatchet (Macmillan, 1986) and Theodore Taylor's The Cay (Avon, 1976), and it will resonate with the same audience.-William McLoughlin, Brookside School, Worthington, OH Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
More adventure than ordeal, this survival tale will fit the bill for thoughtful readers discomfited by extreme violence or gross details. To Michael, the round-the-world sail he's taking with his parents aboard the 42-foot Peggy Sue is great fun, until the moment he and his dog Stella Artois are washed overboard. Michael comes to on a small island, inhabited by gibbons, a colony of orangutans-and Kensuke, a Japanese naval doctor stranded there more than 40 years before. The plot centers around Michael's emotional ups and down as he battles loneliness and mosquitoes, then grows closer to his rescuer, who supplies him with food and water, but makes him stay on one end of the island, at least until he's stung by a jellyfish, and needs nursing back to health. Kensuke has built a small, beautiful world for himself that he teaches Michael to see, and to paint, in exchange for English lessons and news of the outside. When Michael's steadfast parents arrive, after nearly a year's searching, to carry him and Stella away, Kensuke opts to stay behind-but it's plain that his spirit and simplicity have worked profound changes on his young charge. A prizewinning import: sensitive, perceptive, and well-told. (Fiction. 10-12)

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Product Details

Ulverscroft Large Print Books, Ltd.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.33(w) x 5.51(h) x (d)

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